This year I am playing in four different leagues- an in person 12 team re-draft, 10 person non PPR re-draft, 12 team Keeper, and then there is my favorite- my Two Quarterback League. I started this league about four years ago as a change of pace.
Over time it has become the league that I look forward to the most. Leading up to the season it is the league that I discuss strategy with more than any other. So if you are reading this column out of curiosity and want to start up a 2 QB League I have my settings listed below. I would also be interested to hear about what format is your favorite in the Comments section. Here is how our league is set up:
Keepers, Draft Position:
Each team Keeps 1 player from previous season. Owner sacrifices the round where they took the player last year (final round pick if it was waivers). Players can be kept for one year only. We do have a fixed draft position but I will spare you the details. If you are interested in that let me know in the Comments.
What I like the most about this league is that it is very balanced. If you just go out and reach for QB’s you will get hosed at your positions. Being 10 Team you can have 3 flex spots which forces owners to be deep and the cream tends to rise to the top. You have to approach the draft with heightened deftness to end up solid and deep enough at Quarterback but not at the expense of your skill positions. For this column I will mostly focus on Quarterbacks.
Drafting Mentality: How to Reach Strategically
If your league is like mine and has Keepers that will influence your strategy. Be sure to take that in to account. This season the following QB’s are being kept in my league: Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matthew Stafford. That means once Brady and Rodgers are gone (probably 1 and 2 overall) the reach-fest will start.
How do you end up with a terrible team in a two Quarterback League? By refusing to reach at all. If you are drafting via Yahoo, ESPN, or some other major site you have to realize those rankings are based on vanilla settings. Scarcity will drive behavior and if you do not adjust and reach a little bit in the early/mid rounds one of two things will happen: 1) You will reach egregiously later on in the draft if you have no quarterbacks because after all you need two starters and a backup 2) The draft will end and you will have two or less Quarterbacks. Your league mates will rip you off on a trade because they can.
Reaching strategically is difficult because it is subjective. What I like to do is have all the Quarterbacks tiered and cross them off as they get picked. Every draft is different but as a general rule I assign Quarterbacks a baseline inflation of 50%. So if a QB normally goes in the 4th I assume he will go in the 2nd and so on. That is what I use as a baseline for making my picks. If I am between a Quarterback and position player I will take the Quarterback unless I have a good reason not to.
My goal is to end up with 3 QB’s that are starters. You have two Bye Weeks instead of one plus you are harboring double the chances of a devastating QB injury (especially if you have someone like Michael Vick). If possible I like to grab my three QB’s and even take a fourth for upside. Last year I decided to pass on Cam Newton and Andy Dalton in the mid to late rounds because I had Brees and Roethlisberger. That was clearly a mistake.
For standard drafts you can do a bunch of Mocks and get a sense of how things are playing out. Not so in two quarterback leagues which makes them all the more intriguing. These are the basic rules that guide my decision-making. Perhaps the most important factor, however, is familiarizing yourself with all of the Quarterbacks in the NFL and figuring out who is worth gambling on late in your draft. If that pays off, a la Cam Newton in 2011 your team will be tough to beat. Now I will dig in and discuss my QB Tiers and individual players.
Tier 1: First Round Anchors
Having an elite QB in a 2 QB League gives you a tremendous advantage. So much so that the players below should be taken in the first round. My strategy is to take any of them, even Stafford and Cam Newton, over the three elite RB’s this season (Foster, Rice, McCoy).
Aaron Rodgers: The rushing gives him a slight edge over Brady.
Tom Brady: Should throw for around 5,000 and 40 TD’s. I guess I will take that.
Drew Brees: No disrespect here I just like the other two more. Not worried about the “Sean Payton” effect.
Matthew Stafford: Offense is turning in to a system that nearly abandons the run, just like the three above. Has the potential to be the #1 QB in Fantasy.
Cam Newton: First let me say Cam Newton will probably not throw for 4,000 yards again and will definitely not have 14 rushing TD’s. About 3,750 and 8 for those two categories, respectively, sounds about right. That still makes him a sure-fire first rounder in any 2 QB League.
Tier 2: Second and Third Round- Reach or Wait?
If you miss out on an elite QB and want guaranteed production you will have to start reaching early. In a 10 team 2 QB league there will be at least 6 teams missing out on an elite QB in the first round. Owners will be anxious to anchor the position before things get crazy in the middle rounds and they wind up making even bigger reaches for even lesser players. You will have to assess the board and decide whether you want to make an early reach for a QB or take an elite position player.
Eli Manning: The yardage will be there although he has not demonstrated 40+ TD upside. With no nagging injuries and plenty of weapons this is about as safe as it gets.
Peyton Manning: Higher floor and lower ceiling than his brother. Injury risk goes without saying but he is a bargain if he stays healthy and gives you 80% of what he used to be.
Phillip Rivers: Should be a bounce back year for Rivers. Not a lot of weapons in San Diego but he is good enough to overcome that. Look for Eli type numbers.
Tony Romo: His weapons cannot seem to stay healthy and the offensive line is a major weak spot. Otherwise I would have him ranked slightly higher.
Tier 3: Round 4 and Beyond- Quality Production or Upside?
If you have gotten to this point of the draft and do not yet have a Quarterback you are in trouble. You should have three Elite Position Players and must bank on them carrying you. If you do have a QB at this point it is time to grab your QB2. Even if you already have 2 Quarterbacks get more of them. This protects you from injury and regression plus you will have invaluable trade pieces. Every good QB you take is one less for the other owners and gives you even more negotiating leverage.
Matt Ryan: The emergence of Julio Jones is cause for optimism that Ryan can make the jump from solid to stud. It is unlikely that Ryan will break out as a top three QB but he should be able to knock on the door of top 5.
Robert Griffin III: Coffee’s for closers. I drink coffee. The trend is pretty clear in the NFL- rookie Quarterback’s can put up digits, particularly those that are a dual threat. Ask yourself this- can Griffin do 70% of what Cam Newton did last year? That is about 2,800 through the air with 20 TD’s and 500 on the ground with 7 or so TD’s. Those are not absurd numbers. In a 2 QB League where you need to take some chances, Griffin is a perfect target.
Andrew Luck: In Keeper or Dynasty Leagues I would take him up there with the Tier 2 players. Call me crazy but I see 3,500+ yards and 25+ TD’s as a starting point. 4,000+ and 30 TD’s would not surprise me.
Jay Cutler: Re-united with Brandon Marshall and fully healthy. The injury last season knocks his value down slightly as does the risk that Forte gets hurt again, sending the offense in to a tailspin. In some drafts owners will reach for Cutler and in others he will fall. If you get him for a good price it could pay dividends.
Michael Vick: Made of glass. When he plays he puts up huge numbers but he is more likely than anyone to suffer a career ending injury. The preseason has made me even more gun shy. If you take him make sure you grab some other solid players.
Tier 4: Mid Round QB 2’s and Backups
Ideally you have snagged your two starting QB’s from the above Tiers. If you have any of the following players would be an excellent backup/bye week fill in. Some of these guys might be surprisingly good, enough so to be a QB2 or better.
Josh Freeman: Change in leadership might be just what Freeman needs to get his promising career back on track. It is difficult to predict what his ceiling is- it might be higher or lower than we think.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Which Ryan Fitzpatrick will show up- the first or second half player? He could carry you or bury you in 2012. Fantasy is all about taking risks that pay off and in a 2 QB league Fitzpatrick could deliver excellent value.
Joe Flacco: There is no breakout potential here but little chance of a total bust either. He is what he is.
Ben Roethlisberger: 2011 was quite a disappointment for Big Ben. The offensive line in Pittsburgh is deteriorating and Ben’s nagging injuries are starting to stack up. That being said he does have great weapons and Pittsburgh will have to throw the ball a lot due to an anemic ground attack.
Carson Palmer: After getting acclimated Palmer played much better down the stretch. If he can carry that success in to this season he could be a good value this late.
Sam Bradford: It’s hard to fathom what a disappointment Bradford was in 2011. The biggest reason we have to believe he will turn it around is age. It is possible that the regime change gets him going in the right direction.
Alex Smith: Poor man’s Joe Flacco. If you need some production and want to avoid risk this is your guy. Just do not expect him to sniff 4,000 yards or 30 TD’s.
Andy Dalton: Have to put him here based on his surprising rookie season and being paired with AJ Green. I happen to think Dalton will not go above his 2011 numbers much, if at all. Not a player worth reaching for.
Tier 5: Upside Plus Risk or Low Ceiling
Time to draft your third or fourth QB. My preference is to grab the players with the highest ceilings and hope they have a breakout year.
Matt Schaub: There will be a lot of turning around and handing the ball off for Schaub. The emergence of Foster and Tate has focused the offense on the ground game which severely dampens Schaub’s ceiling.
Matt Cassell: Might put up decent enough numbers to be a QB2 but it is more likely that he is a Bye Week fill in at best.
Jake Locker: No one is expecting him to break out but there are enough weapons to create that possibility. I like him more as my 4th QB to stash away in Keeper or Dynasty Leagues.
Matt Flynn: Smells a lot like Kevin Kolb and Matt Cassell to me. Russell Wilson is the only Seattle QB that intrigues me.
Christian Ponder: There is not a lot to get excited about in Minnesota. That being said Ponder was not atrocious last year and he has a few good skill players. I expect a better year in 2012 but nothing special.
Blaine Gabbert: Much like Ponder, Gabbert had an uninspiring rookie season. He is worth stashing due to age but do not expect a ton of production.
John Skelton: His two most redeeming qualities are that he is not Kevin Kolb and that Larry Fitzgerald plays on his team. I would much rather have one of the younger players unless you are totally desperate for a 3rd QB who will at least see time on the field.
Tim Tebow: Biggest must have in 2 QB Leagues this year. Rex Ryan hates that Mark Sanchez is a California pretty boy. In contrast he loves Tebow’s grit and toughness. From a “real” football perspective Ryan is swimming against the current by not taking advantage of the passing style offense encouraged by the NFL. The Jets as a team are poised to be a train wreck. Tebow will take over the starting job at some point this season and could put up huge Fantasy numbers just like he always does. This late in the draft it is near impossible to land yourself a player capable of QB1 production come playoff time. That is what Tebow can give you and I strongly advise getting him in the mid to late rounds as long as a delusional fanboy pulls a muscle reaching for him early on.
Brandon Weeden: I envision a lot of sappy stories this year about the old rookie. He might be serviceable, even close to what Andy Dalton did last year in a best case scenario. That is not too exciting to me.
Matt Moore: Better chance to be the starter opening day but even if he does the production is kind of blah. He will probably be a starter and that is the biggest compliment I can bestow upon him.
Ryan Tannehill: Experts are split on whether he is a bust or budding star. Not a bad play as a stash in a Keeper League in case he works out.
Mark Sanchez: Worth mentioning only because he is currently a starter on an NFL team. Bad news is that he will give up 10-15 touches, many of them in the Red Zone and that he is likely to lose his job entirely.